Why American women are facing journeys of hundreds of miles to get abortions
Women are feeling the impact of the Supreme Court's decision to overrule a woman's right to to an abortion, as ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger reports
Shortly after 10, on the morning of 24 June, the last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri announced it could no longer provide the procedure.
Just minutes earlier, the US Supreme Court had overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.
That decision reversed Roe vs Wade, a decades-old ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose anywhere in America.
Missouri is one of at least nine states across the country to quickly bring in a ban, with more expected to follow in the next few weeks.
Abortion has always polarised America, but the mid-western city of St Louis now finds itself on the new frontline of this fight.
It is split down the middle by the Mississippi River; its west side is in Republican Missouri where abortion is now banned, its east side in Democratic Illinois, where it isn’t.
Crossing the state line feels like passing from one vision of America to another.
Over the past few years, getting an abortion in Missouri had already become a difficult, drawn out process meaning many women living there preferred to travel to Illinois instead.
But limiting abortion access has a history of disproportionately affecting some of the poorest and most vulnerable women.
In Missouri, ill-served by cheap public transport, the problem was particularly acute.
So every fortnight or so, a young woman called Lori Lamprich sets out from her suburban St Louis home in a beaten up Toyota and heads for the border.
Lori is one of a number of volunteers who offer women needing an abortion a lift.
She picks people up from their homes or local bus stations and accompanies them to Illinois’ abortion clinics.
“A lot of the people I pick up are lower income folks” she tells me.
“Part of the reason they need a ride is they can’t afford a car, they can't afford a bus ticket, they don’t even have people in their lives who can afford the time off work to give them a ride.
"For a lot of people, the reason they are doing this is they can’t afford to have a child, so it’s just absurd that if you cant afford a bus ticket, you can still raise a kid."
But while the process remains legal in the Democrat state of Illinois, its far from easy.
At a clinic in Illinois’ Granite City, a twenty minute trip over the bridge from St Louis, she still has to drive her passengers past a line of protestors.
Lori is wise to the hi-vis vests they wear to resemble staff and doesn’t pull over when they try to flag her down at the entrance.
But she can’t protect her passengers from the abuse often directed at her car.
“They’ll literally yell and call them murderers” she sighs.
“I warn them what to expect, but they’ll shout that they’re killing babies.”
At the forefront of the protest movement in Missouri is a clergyman and lobbyist called Sam Lee.
Now a grandfather, he’s been an anti-abortion activist since his twenties and was both surprised and delighted by the Supreme Court’s decision.
He’s helped make Missouri one of just a handful of states where abortion is only possible if a mother's life is in danger - there is no exception for rape or incest.
Sam believes that if you start to take a woman’s future mental well-being into account, you leave the door ajar to abuse of the rules.
“It becomes wide open” he shrugs.
“Our experience is that when there are broad health exceptions, doctors perform abortion at any time, claiming it’s for ‘health’”.
As far as he’s concerned the anti-abortion movement has plenty more to do.
“The ultimate aim is for women to think of abortion as unthinkable” he says.
Its why Lori tells me there are politicians in Missouri who want to change state law, making it illegal to travel to other states for abortion, potentially criminalising the help she offers.
Republicans in the US Senate this week blocked a bill that would protect the right to cross state lines to access abortion care.
But Lori has no plans to stop.
“The simple thing of driving people round might open me up to legal consequences at some point” she says.
“But I’m gonna keep doing it because it’s important.
"It should be unconstitutional to restrict peoples right to travel.”
Right now, she is braced to be busier than ever as state after state moves to restrict abortion.
Her small team has already picked up one woman from the airport who was so desperate she’d flown in from Texas.
So the small organisation she is part of is now raising money for flights and hotel bills.
“People are going to have to be coming in from Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana.
"It's going to need a lot more trips, there’s going to need to be lots more of us” she says, before shaking her head and looking back over the bridge.
“Its gonna get crazy”.